Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014

•The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier District Court ruling and reinstated Kentucky’s ban on wine and spirits sales at grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers. Louisville convenience store Maxwell’s Pic-Pac had sued to overturn the ban and won the right to sell wine and spirits in 2012. Maxwell’s argued that Kentucky’s 76-year-old law prohibiting wine and spirits sales in groceries and convenience outlets is unfair because it allows such sales in pharmacies. The appeals court rejected that argument, saying, “People can survive without ever visiting a pharmacy. On the other hand, most people who object to confronting wine and liquor conceivably cannot avoid grocery stores and gas stations.” The new Appeals Court ruling will affect retailers such as Kroger, Walmart, Family Dollar and other groceries, which under current law must have a separate entrance and store to sell wine and spirits, while pharmacies do not have that requirement.

•The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has named John E. Metzger as acting executive director. He succeeds former CEO Joe Conti, who retired in February. The appointment—which marks a change in Metzger’s title from chief executive officer to executive director—puts Metzger in charge of the PLCB’s day-to-day operations, including direction of the agency’s administrative and business affairs and management of its executive team. Metzger most recently served as PLCB’s supply chain director, and has also previously held leadership positions with A&P, CS Integrated LLC-ProLogis Trust and Darden Restaurants. Pennsylvania’s state-controlled wine and spirits retail monopoly, which has been the target of a thus-far unsuccessful privatization push in the state legislature, posted retail revenues of $2.17 billion in the year through June, up 4.5%.

•Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida (SWS-FL) has appointed John Wittig to the role of executive vice president, general manager, effective January 17. In his new role, Wittig—who most recently served as SWS-FL’s senior vice president, sales and marketing—will oversee the company’s Florida operations and lead a seven-person executive team. He replaces SWS-FL’s Steve Power, who recently retired.

•Heaven Hill Distilleries has released the latest edition of its Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon, available to select retailers and on-premise operators nationwide. A 2004 vintage, the new release was matured under careful supervision in natural open-rick warehouses and is said to have a more bold character than last year’s at 86.6 proof with an average retail price of $26.99 a 750-ml. bottle. Heaven Hill’s sixth-generation master distiller Parker Beam selected barrels for the 2004 vintage that sat higher up in the warehouses so that the temperature gradients over the nine to 10 years of aging were more extreme.

•Oaxaca, Mexico’s Mezcal Vago is entering California through a partnership with The Henry Wine Group. The family-crafted artisan mezcal was first introduced to North America last year and currently is distributed in Colorado, Texas, New York, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In California, Vago will market its Espadin ($49.99), Elote ($52.99), Cuixe ($89.99), Mexicano ($89.99), Tobala en Barro ($131.99) and Ensamble en Barro ($69.99) variants.

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